First up is the Whistleblower and the copious amount of comments left yesterday evening about Scott Walker and Hancock County Supervisor Steve Seymour. I’m not clearing them through the moderation que because it will save a lawsuit or two (or three).
That said there is someone that made contact with me, as luck would have it, typically on days over the past few months when all hell was breaking loose. Since we have copious amounts of disaster management experience here at Slabbed New Media thanks to the Hurricane from which this website’s name is derived, no task is forgotten and I hope to have some quality muck raked for everyone very soon.
Speaking of tasks, sometime in the recent past a reader was kind enough to send in some photos and I absolutely love reader photos. This pic of Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts, for instance, is a legendary Slabbed classic. Along those lines we are in a political season here in South Mississippi so some photos from the east side of the coast are in order. The first documents a wanton act of vandalism of the type that civilized society fully condemns so we start at Frank Palazzo’s place just north of the Promenade: Continue reading “Obviously we have some catching up to do”
Yesterday Karen Nelson added some color to the unfolding federal investigation into the DMR friends and family program disclosing a few things, one of which we knew in a general sense and one that we did not know. First off is the factoid we did not know:
The Director of the Land Trust for the Coastal Plain, Judy Steckler, appears to have a problem telling the truth about the Land Trust’s involvement as a financial intermediary in the DMR purchase of Former DMR Executive Director Bill Walker’s son Scott’s piece of land on Bayou Porteaux. Once known as a nonprofit with a sterling reputation the Land Trust has taking a major and well deserved beating for their role in what strongly appears to be a sophisticated, criminal enterprise. After yesterday’s story I do not see how the Land Trust can keep Ms. Steckler as its executive director but as we saw with the CMR it is possible the Board of Trustees of the Land Trust remains firmly in denial, in the process breaching their fiduciary duty to the organization.
Finally Nelson tells us in detail the FBI’s role in the investigation and one of the leads they are chasing using the same investigative technique the FBI used in the neighborhood canvas. It appears Bill Walker’s son Scott may need fabled beltway criminal defense attorney Bernie Grimm’s services again as the FBI has taken an interest in the DMR’s purchase of Walker’s lot. It is not much of a stretch to extrapolate that CIAP director Tina Shumate and her purchase of her parent’s property is also under the same scrutiny. How Shumate remains at DMR drawing a paycheck defies the imagination.
Next up Michael Newsom takes a stab at the DMR purchase of the old Winn Dixie property in the Pass. A couple of things stuck out at me the first being that the story photo appears to be the property across the street from the parcel purchased by DMR. Following is an aerial photo of the location with the slab and parking lot of the old Winn Dixie still visible.
We’ve been here and done this property on Slabbed way back on November 5 of last year. The Sun Herald protected the identity of the beneficiary of this DMR friends and family program purchase, Jackson based developer Gary Cress in their story. I well remember when the Pass Winn Dixie closed a month or so before Katrina. Cress was planning to develop the parcel into condos. The parcel across Henderson Avenue sold the summer before Hurricane Katrina for $800,000 with an eye toward the same purpose.
The $800,000 parcel on the right, over 3 acres of land, is lower in elevation than the Cress parcel and had never been developed since Hurricane Camille for that reason. It would seem to fit the DMR criteria for land purchases better than the old Winn Dixie site. It should also be lost on no one that land values on the Mississippi Coast reached their zenith that summer before Katrina as condomania swept the land. Today the parcel on the right is for sale by owner and I’m guessing the reason it has not sold, despite being on the market close to 7 years, is due to overvaluation associated with the original purchase in the summer of 2005. Continue reading “DMR Scandal Day 88: Screwing the pooch starring Billy Walker, the FBI and the Chipper”
Folks we all gotta take off our hats to the DMR Beat Team at the Sun Herald because the gang is doing a great job, especially in today’s day and age of the local newsroom cut to the bone by absentee investor owned chains like the Sun Herald’s McClatchy that struggle under massive corporate debtloads. Bad times in the newspaper industry are no secret but the Sun Herald’s reporting on the unfolding scandal at DMR should remind us all of the societal value of high quality investigative journalism.
I mention this because often times one has to often read between the lines in a straight news story to fully understand the situation the reporter(s) is (are) trying to convey. Today it does not take much reading to figure out the Sun Herald would love to fully flesh out this entire DMR topic but they feel stymied. Here’s a long winded explanation why.
Today’s top story on DMR by Anita Lee and Karen Nelson on Bill Walker’s Foundation is mostly a recap of previous reporting dating back to December 8, 2012. That said it had a few new quotes from CMR Chairman Vernon Asper and yes, he comes across as clueless Billy Walker tool, which he surely was considering he chaired the Commission on Marine Resources yet evidently knew next to nothing about what was going on at the agency. This in turn is a massive breach of Asper’s fiduciary duty as Chairman of the CMR but we need to circle that for now. It also had quotes from emails involving Bill Walker’s son Scott arranging one of those taxpayer funded fishin’ trips with representatives of an engineering firm out of Mobile, Thompson Engineering. It was nice to see the taxpayers bought beer and that Pascagoula Mayor and fellow crony capitalist Robbie Maxwell has entered into the equation. Maxwell, Pascagoula’s part time Mayor is as bad as Bill Walker folks, maybe even worse IMHO.
As bad as this is, and believe me what Phil Bryant’s coastal political cronies have done is very bad, none of this is new and Gov Phil, better than anyone should know exactly what I’m talking about as he was state auditor when it all came down: ENRON.
It was massive accounting frauds at ENRON and WorldCom that led to government regulation of large swaths of the CPA profession and deservedly so I’ll add. For instance at ENRON there was an ossified, ineffectual Board of Directors stacked with politically connected phonies like Senator Phil Gramm’s wife Wendy, an economist that could rationalize about anything. At DMR, by their own admission we have a Board of Trustees that had no clue what was going on and who evidently did not bother to engage their jobs beyond the free boat rides, fishing trips etc. When the people that are supposed to be running the show are asleep at the switch bad things happen as we found out at ENRON and now DMR.
ENRON used off balance sheet special purpose entities or (SPE in accounting lingo) as a major vehicle for much of the criminal activity that occurred DMR director Bill Walker created an off books foundation that sucked all manner of tax dollars away from DMR’ mission to support the boats Walker used to wine and dine everyone on the taxpayer dime and lord knows what else. Continue reading “DMR Scandal Day 80: This is too rich…….:-)”
A couple of events have recently taken me down memory lane to the post Katrina Coast circa late 2005-2006 and the reminder came via Women of the Storm which had a Mississippi Chapter. The membership in the group came from across the socio-economic-ethnic spectrum and their mission included traveling to DC after Hurricane Katrina raising awareness with Congress and the President on the unique issues that impacted this area post Katrina.
Later on the ladies from the Louisiana chapter would take a shot at the oil spill and received a few black eyes in the process as the group also became known as Women of the Oil. It seems the Mississippi chapter is far more environmentally friendly.
I mention this because the group has popped up here in Mississippi in the DMR scandal news cycle and as today’s latest installment of as the Good ol’ boys at DMR turns by Paul Hampton and Michael Newsom, Nonnie DeBardeleben of Women of the Storm is calling out the broom brigade for a clean sweep of upper management at DMR. Chair of the Mississippi Senate Ports and Marine Resources Committee Brice Wiggins appears to agree that the interim guy, Danny Guice, needs to remain just that, interim.
This is not about the worker bee employees at DMR, no siree. It is all about the all the politically connected piggies stinkin’ up the executive ranks. Brooms, many of ’em in fact, are exactly what is needed to remedy the situation.
In Mississippi it is called the GOB or Good Ol’ Boy network and today at the post insurance forum print media luncheon the topic of the 1990s era “Cedar Point Land Deal” in Ocean Springs came up in context of the discussion of the congressional race between Gene Taylor and Steven Palazzo. It came up because candidate Palazzo’s dad, Frank Palazzo, was part owner of a parcel of land along with politically connected Gulfport lawyer Ben Stone for all of one minute before they resold it to Jackson County for $3 million dollars netting a cool $1.5 million in the process. This in turn caused the folks at Fire Gene Taylor.com to conclude they could not support Mr Palazzo for Congress as they consider him a political hack. In support of that the Mississippi Informer has done a bang up job compiling all the old Sun Herald reporting on the subject. Here is an excerpt from those reports all of which are well worth reading that the Informer was kind enough to highlight almost at the bottom of the page:
Frustrated county grand jurors, who spent five months examining the deal, said they failed to find enough evidence to indict anyone. But they urged county officials to keep looking “for information that may convince a subsequent grand jury to conclude otherwise.”
Jackson County bought 214 acres in November 1995 from two Gulfport land speculators who doubled their money in one day. Taxpayers spent $3 million on the land.
One month later, the county gave the land to the University of Southern Mississippi to expand the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. But USM had no concrete plans, timetable or money to expand the lab.
“The whole thing was rotten in my estimation,” Attorney General Mike Moore said Friday, “but not being able to find anyone with a bag of cash who made a bribe to anyone made an indictment difficult.”